Where Chicago cops feed

By HermineBloom

Though a police officer’s life in Chicago might conjure images of nonstop drug busts and car chases, between the hours of noon and one o’clock an officer will likely be on the search for some grub—and it’s not always a quest to find the perfect doughnut. Places frequented, however, like Frank and Mary’s Tavern, 2905 N. Elston Ave., don’t receive much press because they’re neighborhood joints. But these types of restaurants are a reflection of local food culture worth compiling and documenting, according to Sgt. Dave Haynes and writer Chris Garlington.

Haynes, a police officer of 15 years, teamed up with blogger and longtime freelance writer Garlington to write a book titled “The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats,” which is being published by Lake Claremont Press, to provide relatable restaurant reviews, quips and otherwise unknown stories having to do with the cops’ relationship between where they eat and Chicago’s crime history.

The book is set to release in December or January as a follow-up to “The Streets and San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats,” which Sharon Woodhouse, owner and publisher of Lake Claremont Press, said was a great success when it hit bookshelves in 2004.

“It was literally about where he and his co-workers ate for lunch,” Woodhouse said. “It was a really funny celebration of mom and pop eateries around the city. It took people into neighborhoods they wouldn’t normally go to.”

What city cops eat for lunch should be more appealing to native Chicagoans, Woodhouse said, because everyone’s aware cops know where to find good, cheap food.

“They’re making calls and they’re going out in the car but not every minute of the day is spent chasing a bank robbery,” Garlington said of the Chicago Police Department. “Usually up until lunchtime, what they’re talking about is what they’re going to have for lunch and it becomes a Mount Everest of concern for these guys.”

Woodhouse made a Kickstarter.com account to raise money for the start-up costs for the book to be published by the end of the year. As of Nov. 19., $1,380 has been raised out of a $5,000 goal with a due date of Dec. 5. Regardless of whether they make the goal, the book will absolutely be published, Woodhouse said.

“Burger Baron, [1381 W. Grand Ave.], is full of people from wall to wall,” said Garlington, who met Haynes through their son’s Cub Scout activities. “It’s not a chain; it’s owned by one guy. And why is it full? The food is totally amazing. You’re not going to see this [place] in Chicago Magazine.”

Ultimately, the book is divided into five main chapters because there are five main police areas in the city, Garlington added. In each area, the duo picked places where Haynes said cops eat, such as Shark’s Fish and Chicken, 5048 S. Cottage Grove Ave., and Steak and Egger, 1174 W. Cermak Road, and wrote reviews. Interviews with local cops involving a moment in their career that dealt with crime and eating lunch, along with interesting histories of some of the restaurants are also included.

Humorous and conversational in tone, the book is also deeply personal for the unconventional pair of authors. Two very important recipes can be found in the book, Garlington said, which are Haynes’ banana pudding and Garlington’s homemade guacamole.

This, of course, fits within the realm of what Lake Claremont Press typically publishes: Niche-oriented guide books and history books far more likely to be written by people with a particular passion for a subject, rather than by a professional writer. “Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City” and its successors written by Ursula Bielski collectively sold more than 60,000 copies, making it the publishing company’s most successful book series.

Like “Chicago Haunts,” “The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats” illustrates local culture in Chicago.

“The important thing about what we do is, unlike Zagat’s, our book goes to the heart of what it means to eat in Chicago,” Garlington said. “You don’t eat at Blackbird every night. Regular people deserve a guide.”

Haynes said he’s more adventurous when it comes to choosing lunch options, which is reflected in the book’s content.

“Chris and I have been friends for a long time,” Haynes said. “This is just one more thing we do,” referring to the online radio show they broadcast from The Cigar King in Skokie, Ill.

Soon, they will make appearances at the restaurants within its pages to promote the book, though Garlington said they don’t usually have to talk too much.

“We bring up Sorelli’s or something and people go crazy,” Garlington said. “Everybody loves local food and they have their own internal lists of what they love and that’s who it’s going to appeal to.”

But working people, cops, city workers, downtown hourly workers—the city dwellers who have unpaid lunch breaks that call for cheap, good food—is their target audience.

“The truth is: The book could be about nine times thicker than it is and still not cover every restaurant cops eat at,” Garlington said.

To donate money to its start-up costs, visit Kickstarter.com/Projects and search for “The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats.”